29 June 2011

The Return of the Two Minutes Hate

I just finished Cold by Bill Streever. Really loved it--so well written and entertaining. It jumped all over; time-location-topic, something that keeps my busy mind happy, but it wasn't so herky-jerky that it distracted from the book. Can't recommend it enough, especially to those of you who are looking for a break from the heat of summer.

I've moved on to Uranium...so far so good. I am hoping it's a quick read; graduate classes start on August 22nd and my "reading for fun" time will be cut short...probably to just the time at the gym (speaking of-I'm reading Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg on the nook and am digging it)...so i want to get in this book as well as three others--highly unlikely but a girl can dream right?

Two Minutes Hate
It's been so long...

Surely you've heard about the tongue in cheek, for adults only book Go the F#ck To Sleep. Written by a very tired (and very clever) parent as a way to communicate his love and frustration with raising children. The response i think has been overwhelming...parents seem to really relate to it and the author (a very accomplished author at that) Adam Mansbach has been doing the late night/early morning talk show rounds. He points out that while it's illustrated as a children's book, with verses such as, "The eagles who soar thru the sky are at rest / And the creatures who crawl, run and creep. / I know you are not thirsty. That's bullshit. / Stop lying. / Lie the fuck down, my darling, and sleep", it's best to keep this book away from the young ones.

Today I read an CNN opinion piece about the book. The author, Karen Spears Zacharias says that the reason the book, "should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children." She then goes on to talk with people who say things like, "Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos." She herself says, "The violent language of "Go the F*** to Sleep" is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who'd care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them."

Here's the rub though....First, it's not violent and demeaning--it's fucking true. Kids lie to get what they want, parents often want to yell loudly at them to lay down and sleep for christs sake. Good parents and the parents that buy this book (as Ms. Zacharias points out) refrain from yelling. Bad parents, who yell and do worse when their children don't listen; those parents don't change their behavior based on this book or any other. If you want to see a parent demeaning a child, watch Toddlers & Tiaras. Tell me how that's healthy for a daughter?

Second, it's not written about Jews or blacks or Muslims or Latinos. It's written about children; who, we all agree, can be completely vexing. Is this really the new standard for an adult story? If a child molester in my story is told that "You are a piece of shit and deserve to die in a fire" do i need to worry that someone will review it and say, but what if that was written about a Muslim? Do authors need to run through every marginalized group and do a kind of Folgers Crystals *we secretly replaced Mr. Mansbach innocent child with an african american--let's see what happens* swap so that we make sure we don't offend anyone, even people we don't actually write about? Can i be personally offended with Hitler's Mein Kampf because, even though he didn't speak poorly about redheaded women living in the states, imagine if he had?!

Third, Ms. Zacharias states that "Sadly, his book accurately portrays the hostile environment in which too many children grow up. For far too many kids, the obscenities found in Mansbach's book are a common, everyday household language." To that I would say, So? Hear me out. I don't condone speaking to children in this manner. Neither would the author and neither would any rational sensitive adult. Does the fact that many kids are neglected mean that we can't talk about it? Are humor and satire not allowed until everyone is loved and cared for? Ms. Zacharias is right that the book isn't funny "when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who'd care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them." Just like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs isn't so entertaining when you remember that 13,000 children die each day because they didn't get enough food to eat. If you want to help children who are neglected there are plenty of ways to do it, but we cant expect every book to be all things.

Mr. Mansbach was telling a story, one most parents can relate to, he wasn't trying to address the subject of childhood neglect and he shouldn't be expected to. He wrote an entertaining story for parents. Perhaps it will serve to make them feel less alone the next time their little butterface is throwing a fit and asking for another song and another tale and another glass of water.


Vagabond Shutterbug said...

Well said.

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